For the past 10 years, new TFAers have been inspired by the lengthy reading entitled ‘Ms. Lora’s Story,’ about a Houston ’00 corps member who worked miracles in her first year at Blair Elementary School in Houston, getting her 4th grade class to be the first to ever have 100% passing the state test.
But when I looked up the data for ‘Blair’ (actually Ryan Elementary) the numbers simply don’t add up. Here is some data from their 2000-2001 Academic Excellence Indicator System, which you can examine for yourself on Texas’ excellent data report system.
Now, it is possible that I am reading the report wrong. Maybe she wasn’t really a 2000 CM, but since the school had 66 4th graders that year, that would be two or three fourth grade classes. Notice that for the 4th grade, all the scores were lower in 2001 than they were in 2000. Also notice that the fourth graders had a 66.7% pass rate in 2001, which was 11% lower than it was the year before. So if she really got 100% of her students to pass ‘the’ test (they don’t say that it was just one section), then the other two teachers only got about 50% passing. It does not seem likely, but, then again, what do I know.
Looking at the 4th grade scores for the next three years, we see that in 2002 the percent of 4th graders passing all three sections was 73%, in 2003 the test changed from the TAAS to the TAKS which now had a passing rate of 49%, and in her last year, I believe, 2004 60%.
Lora went on to become a high ranking official in Seattle, and has just become an assistant superintendent in Dallas. I don’t doubt that she was a very good teacher. My point is that there is way too much exaggeration when it comes to what sorts of ‘miracles’ (in terms of test scores, at least) have been accomplished by TFAers. TFA needs to stop with the inflated statistics and give the new corps members a realistic picture of success.
One thing that I hope is clear is that this post is not meant to be critical of Mr. Lora, herself. She did not write ‘Ms. Lora’s Story,’ but participated by agreeing to be interviewed for it. The actual author of ‘Ms. Lora’s Story’ is TFA Chief Knowledge Officer Steven Farr, who also wrote the Teaching As Leadership book (which I was not fond of), and co-wrote Wendy Kopp’s new book (which was much better).
I actually contacted Mr. Lora, herself, to ask if she would be willing to share ‘the rest of the story.’ She promptly wrote back a very nice email agreeing to be interviewed in a few weeks, after she gets settled in her new job in Dallas, among other responsibilities. She gave me a small ‘taste’ of the sort of things that she was disappointed at having been omitted from ‘her’ story. I’m really looking forward to speaking with her. Stay tuned …